Bonding to Existing Concrete

posted by Bob

Fact: Fresh wet concrete does not normally bond well to existing dry concrete. Do you remember elementary school where one of the subjects on which you were graded was “plays well with others”? Concrete would have gotten an F. There is nothing in basic portland cement that will act as a bonding agent. Portland cement concrete works well in mass and provides great compressive strength but not bond.

Concrete is marvelous stuff but in time it will deteriorate. When it does, you either have to patch it or replace it. Assuming that it is structurally sound the least expensive alternative is to patch it. However patching it requires some attention to detail or your patch will not last. So that you don’t waste too much time or money, we should probably discuss what “structurally sound” means. If your sidewalk has either heaved or dropped at almost every joint, repairing it will not provide a long-term solution. The slabs are likely still moving. If your slab has so much sand and gravel on the surface that despite sweeping and sweeping and squirting and squirting it just keeps coming back, don’t waste your time on repairs. If you have multiple cracks that run so deep that they appear to run through the slab, a repair would only be temporary. The solution to all of these problems involves a jackhammer and bags of one of the Sakrete concretes.

Since this discussion is on the best way to bond concrete, we will assume that your slab is good.

There are a variety of Sakrete concrete repair products available to fix concrete that has begun to deteriorate. However, without good surface preparation, none of them are going to perform satisfactorily. All loose sand, gravel, dirt, leaves etc. must be removed. This can typically be done with a garden hose and a good nozzle. Tough areas may require a pressure washer or mechanical abrasion. The two toughest areas to cover are those with oil and tree sap. Both of these will work their way down into the concrete. Simply washing the surface isn’t sufficient. If the stains do not run too deep, you can chip away the concrete using a hammer and chisel. Don’t forget the goggles (not just glasses) as this process will throw concrete all over the place. Also, keep your thumb out of the way. If the spots are too large or too deep for this to be practical, you may need a sealer to cover the stains before patching.

There are two basic methods for bonding a portland cement based product to existing concrete; 1) chemically and 2) mechanically.

Let’s discuss the mechanical approach first since it is really used in both approaches. The most effective way to ensure a really good bond is with a scratch coat. This is simply a very wet coat made up by mixing the repair product with water. Mix up a small amount of the repair material to a soupy consistency. You don’t need to measure the water-just turn the stuff into slop. Then, using a gloved hand or a rag, smear the material onto the area to be patched. Just think finger painting from kindergarten. The technique is about the same. Apply pressure to ensure that as much as possible is shoved into the nocks and crannies. You only need a thin coat. It is not necessary for this scratch coat to dry. By the time you get the repair material mixed it will be ready. Then mix up additional repair material to the proper consistency and apply over this thin scratch coat.

The chemical approach involved mixing up a liquid bonding agent that helps bond new concrete products to old. Products like Sakrete Top'n Bond and Sakrete Flo-Coat already contain polymers that greatly improve the bond of portland cement and should NEVER be used with a liquid bonding agent. I know in America bigger is better but it’s just not so with these products. Other products like Sakrete Sand Mix and Sakrete Fast Set Cement Patcher benefit from the use of a liquid chemical bonding agent such as Sakrete Bonder/Fortifier. When using a liquid bonding agent, paint the bonder onto the existing concrete and allow it to dry until it is tacky. This usually takes only a few minutes. Then apply the repair material. Just as in the process described above, after the bonder has become tacky apply a scratch coat and then apply the repair material. The most effective way to ensure that the bonding agent gets into the existing concrete is to apply it directly using a brush or rag. It can be sprayed if you happen to have a sprayer. Although the directions say that you can use it as part of the mix water, direct application works better.

If you are doing a large area and a scratch coat isn’t practical you will need to spray the surface with water before you apply the repair material. On a warm day, the existing concrete surface will be hot enough to suck the water out of the repair material. In addition, some concretes are quite porous and will rob water from your repair material. If too much water is lost into the old concrete there will not be enough water to hydrate all of the cement particles and a lower strength material will be the result. Concrete simply will not bond to all substances. Paint, oil, glue from old flooring tiles are just a few. You must mechanically remove these materials if you want the job to last.

Once the job is complete, you can do a quick check to see if the bond was successful. Wait at least 24 hours and then tap “gently” on the patch using a hammer or some other dull object and listen for a hollow echoing sound. If you just get a dull thud then the material has bonded well. If you get a hollow sound, the material has not bonded and will crack in time. Which means it is back to the beginning of today’s topic. Here is hoping your concrete work comes across as a dull thud (not like some of my party guests) rather than a hollow endeavor.



Willie, this would help to stabilize your repair. However, you may see cracking in the future due to point load. So you may have to do some maintenance on the area sometime down the road.
- Lee-Technical Service
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 9:45 AM

Jeff, the Fast Setting Cement Patcher can be applied from 1/4" up to 2" in thickness. Modify the mix with our Sakrete Bonder & Fortifier to give it better adhesion to the wall. Make sure that the wall is damp prior to application.
- Lee-Technical Service
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 9:33 AM

Roger, I cannot give you a recommendation on the Pro Finish 5000 because that is not our product. The Flo-Coat can be use to repair cracks in concrete slabs as well as resurfacing.
- Lee-Technical Service
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 9:28 AM

I removed a exterior service door and found that the 4 inch slab on top of the foundation block had cracked and fallen off. Should I drill a couple of horizontal holes to add rod before I pour additional concrete to fix the missing material under the door threshold?
- willie
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 11:44 PM

James, clean the area very well and while the surface is damp Apply Top N Bond. You can hold out a little water to make the mix thicker so that the edge can be sculpted back to a square shape. Top N Bond can be placed from 1/2" down to a featheredge and can be applied in layers. wait at least an hour between layers. This is a polymer modified product so do not use a bonding agent.
- Lee-Technical Service
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 9:10 AM

I have a poured cement wall in my basement that runs along the basement stair way. The wall is out of plumb, leaving a 3/4 " gap between the stair stringer and the wall at the bottom of the stairs. I would like to fix this by adding a skim coat to the existing cement wall. I am concerned about adhesion to the smooth poured wall. Any recommendations?
- Jeff
Monday, June 13, 2016 at 2:44 PM

I was thinking of using Pro Finish 5,000 on repairing old concrete of cracks and other problems. I was going to paint on old concrete your cure and seal and use some with mixture of cement. Question is how much if necessary to use in the mixture of concrete. Would this me stronger to use instead of the flow coat product and resurfacing mix for unblemished areas. What should I do? Send me an e-mail please @ Thank you.
- Roger
Friday, June 10, 2016 at 1:55 AM

how to square off a rounded corner of old concrete
- james waldron
Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 12:10 PM

Daniel, The Top N Bond Concrete Patcher can be placed from 1/2” down to a featheredge. Make sure that you clean the surface and remove any loose dust, dirt, debris, paints, and or sealers. If your application is greater than 1/2” you can do multiple layers. The layers would all need to be done in the same day. If you wait longer than 24 hours to do the next layer then you will need to wait 28 days before the project can be finished. Top N Bond is polymer modified so you do not use a bonding agent with this material.
- Lee-Technical Service
Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 10:31 AM

We have a concrete entrance outside into a inside foyer for apartments. There is standing water at the doorway and we would like to raise the level of the outside concrete slab so the water doesn't lay there. It is seeping into out inside entrance and rotting out the floor. The concrete was poured 2 years ago. Can you suggest what to use? Thanks
- Daniel Snow
Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 8:18 PM



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